Thanks to Dan & Amy Schuman for this most important blog post: Getting Pre-Approved for a Home Mortage as your First Step in the home buying process.
As an Exclusive Buyer's Agent, this is the first question I ask: Are you "Pre-Approved" or at least "Pre-Qualified for a mortgage loan? It is sad when the right home is found, and then LOST to the smart Buyer who had their Pre-Approval Letter in Hand!!
If you were taking a home buying class, this would be the first thing you talk about. Basically real estate 101, getting pre-approved.
It may seem simple, yet many potential buyers are making a huge mistake by either neglecting this step or only getting pre-qualified, which is much more watered down version.
Failure to get a firm pre-approval may end up costing you the home of your dreams.
GET PRE-APPROVED NOT PRE-QUALIFIED
When the real estate market was slow, the sense of urgency to get financing was not very high. Buyers figured they could take their time to find a home, and then they'd firm things up with their lender afterwards. However, with the market starting to really heat up and inventories still low, buyers must change this lackadaisical mindset.
The problem isn't that buyers are totally forgetting to speak to a lender, although some still do not do this up front. They are simply getting pre-qualified instead of pre-approved, and there is a big difference.
A pre-qualification is just the initial step, typically a phone conversation about your overall financial picture. The lender may discuss income, debts, and go over different payment options, but it should not be confused with a firm pre-approval. The problem is that many buyers only do this initial step, and have the false sense of security that getting a loan will not be a problem. Some find out the hard way.
In order to grant a full pre-approval letter, a lender will likely complete a formal application, pull credit, and collect specific documentation from you such as pay stubs, W-2's, or tax returns. This will allow them to better define your maximum price range. It may not seem like a big deal but this extra step makes all the difference in the world.
I have seen cases when a buyer gets pre-qualified over the phone, and then ends up not qualifying once the lender verifies all pertinent information. Don't let this happen to you.
DO YOURSELF A FAVOR
Getting pre-approved will make you a stronger buyer and allow you to move quickly if needed. In an active market, you never know when that special home will come on the market, and when it does, you will need to act with a huge sense of urgency. Waiting until after you find your home to get your financing in order may be too late.
With multiple offer situations becoming common, having a solid pre-approval letter may even help you win out during a bidding war.
The difference between getting pre-approved and pre-qualified is merely time and a little effort on your part but is well worth it. In fact, it could ultimately determine whether or not you get the home.
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About The Authors:
Dan and Amy Schuman are agents with Howard Hanna, the area's largest real estate company. They live in Solon Ohio and specialize in Cleveland Luxury Homes, working with buyers relocating to Cleveland, and first-time buyers.
The Most Important Step To Buying Home is the property of The Schuman Team and may not be duplicated or used without their written consent. ©February 2013
Doug Patterson ABR®
Park Place Real Estate, Broker-In-Charge
SFR HUD Certified Broker